Ex-World Bank employee to face forced labor lawsuit
DALY CITY, California — A US federal court ruled that a former World Bank employee must face a human-trafficking lawsuit from a Filipino woman who allegedly spent years as her virtual slave.
The lawsuit was lodged by Cristina Fernandez Cruz against Nilda Maypa, a World Bank employee. Cruz says she came to the United States from the Philippines in 2002 to work as a housekeeper for Maypa.
According to a report by Lorraine Bailey of Courthouse News, the employment contract allegedly promised Cruz $6.50 an hour for 35 to 40 hours of work per week.
According to Cruz’s complaint, the contract also stipulated one full day off each week, two sick days per year, subsidized medical insurance and full reimbursement for travel to and from the Philippines.
Upon arriving in Virginia, however, Cruz allegedly discovered that the contract was a misrepresentation.
For the next six years, allegedly Cruz worked seven days a week for 17 to 18 hours per day. Cruz says Maypa confiscated her passport as soon as she arrived, and told Cruz that U.S. immigration would imprison and deport her if she tried to leave.
She claims to have spent the first year cleaning a four-bedroom home and caring for its eight inhabitants, and says that every year after that she cleaned a second home that Maypa’s daughter had bought. Cruz was allegedly expected to remain on call at night, take care of four children, according to Courthouse News.
Instead of $6.50 an hour for her labor, she was paid only $8 per day initially, and just under $15 per day by the end of the six years, according to the complaint.
A friend living in the United States helped Cruz escape in 2008, and Cruz sued Maypa in 2013 under the Victims of Trafficking and Violence protection Act, and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
A federal judge in Alexandria dismissed Cruz’s claims as untimely, but the 4th Circuit recently reversed it. The confiscation of Cruz’s passport prevented her from seeking redress. “Equitable tolling” of the 10-year statute of limitations for Cruz’s human-trafficking claims is thus available, the panel found.
Cruz’s claims under the FLSA may also still be viable because she claims she was never given notice of her rights, such as the Virginia minimum wage, according to the ruling. Employers are required to post this information in the workplace.
Cruz’s state-law breach-of-contract claims remain untimely, however, as she filed this action more than five years after her escape, the 4th Circuit judgment states.
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